Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Words to Live By

Words to Live By

“Find the quotation printed on the wall of the Monterey Bay Aquarium written by a rabbi.  The one by a Beatle.  A President. A Nobel poet.”  That’s an invitation we give our Blue Theology youth and adult pilgrimage groups as we lead them on a “spiritual tour” there.  (Answers below.)

Naturally we find inspiring words by scientists as well – Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Rachel Carson, Terry Tempest Williams, Loren Eiseley.  But the range and variety of authors goes far beyond science.

Why did the exhibit designers include all these poetic quotations?  There’s a long history of etching profound words on public buildings (government, memorial, cathedral, grave, etc.)   I like that the Aquarium (whose mission statement, is “To inspire conservation of the ocean”) inspires visitors not just with amazing fish and informative facts, but with poetic words on the wall, and the profound people who said them.  Not just our brains but our hearts and souls are opened to the ocean’s beauty and need for protection.

We react differently to these wall words.  We might say:
-Love the quote, but who is that person?  (Anne Stevenson, the poet whose words are pictured above. Google “North Sea off Carnoustie” to read the whole poem.)
-Wow – I didn’t know that person said that.  (Andy Warhol)
-They have a quote from that cool cat? (Jimi Hendrix, his quote now gone, was with the psychedelic jellyfish exhibit.)
-I’m going to ponder that one for a while. (Terry Tempest Williams) 
-Oh, I love that song, humming it the rest of the visit.  (The Beatle)

A study by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums found that 15-20% of all visitors are what they named “Spiritual Pilgrims” or “Seekers,” visiting not so much to see the biggest shark or to bring an out of town guest, but to feel an introspective connection to the larger world and inspiration on how to care for the ocean.  Quotations help make that connection.

As I try to put together a brochure or app on “How to have a quiet spiritual visit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium,” I am including all the quotations. 

They are like prayer prompts or sacred texts. 

Which ones do you like?  What would you add?

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”  Terry Tempest Williams

“I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade.”  Ringo Starr

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  Loren Eiseley

“Invisibly, where the casual observer would say there is no life, it lies deep in…burrows and tubes and passageways.  It tunnels into solid rock and bores…keeps alive the sense of continuing creation and of the relentless drive of life.”  Rachel Carson

“The tides are in our veins.”  Robinson Jeffers

“…the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever.”  Jacques-Yves Cousteau

“I spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the Sea.”  Pablo Neruda

“The sea is as near as we come to another world.”  Anne Stevenson

“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”  Henry David Thoreau

 “In one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans.”  Kahlil Gibran

“If not me, who? If not now, when?”  Rabbi Hillel

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”  Aristotle

 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.”  Margaret Mead

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  Andy Warhol

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”  John F. Kennedy

Come for the quotations, stay for the pilgrimage hikes, service projects, inspiration and good company, for a one-day to one-week Blue Theology experience in Pacific Grove.  I post these Wednesday devotionals on ocean stewardship and spirituality here and at

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